Friday, December 31, 2010

Going, Going ------

Almost gone - that's both the snow and the old year and, to tell the truth, I'm not at all sorry to see either go. 

You know my feelings about snow and even though 2010 hasn't been a really awful year for us, it's just time for a new beginning with a new year, don't you think?  I  have a good feeling that 2011 will be a great year.  And I wish for a super year for all of us artists as it's also time for art sales to recover.

So, may I wish all of you a happy and prosperous New Year filled with every good thing life has to offer!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Colourfix Suede!

I'm very excited as yesterday I saw that Jerry's Artarama and Dakota Pastels both have Art Spectrum's new Colourfix Suede pastel paper listed in their online catalogs!  I checked Dick Blick's website but they still don't have it listed as of yesterday and I haven't check Cheap Joe's or any other online vendor that I order from.

I called the Raleigh Jerry's store but they do not have it in stock at this time - bummer!  I was going to go get at least a sheet in spite of the distance and the snow still lingering in the shady areas around here.

I just haven't had time since I found out about the paper being available to figure out what I want to order but plan to do so today.  In the meantime, here are links to Jerry's and Dakota Pastel's catalog pages for it.  At least you'll be able to see the colors available and the current price.  When I get my hands on a sheet and have time to work on it, I'll report on what I think of it. 

And if any of you beat me getting a sheet of it, please let me know how you like it!

Now, here are those links:

Jerry's Artarama
Dakota Pastels

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back To Normal?

Well, the snow is finally melting and the roads are clear at least.  There's still quite a bit of the white stuff around but the patches of bare ground are getting bigger all the time.  The weather forecasters say we should be up to around 70 degrees by the weekend!  Whooo Hooo!

In the meantime, I'm still trying to clean up and organize my studio when I really need to be painting.  I have several paintings to do and have got to get cracking on them soon - I just need to be able to find my table so I can paint!

So, I want to take this time to wish everyone a wonderful coming new year.  I think I missed wishing you all a merry Christmas but I hope you had one anyway.

All the best in 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

That Four-Letter Word Again!

You can call me a whiner, I don't care, but I don't like snow and cold.  I even moved to the southern part of the country to escape it but we still get some from time to time.  Usually we get a few flakes then the sun will come out and it's gone within a few hours.  But we got dumped on Christmas night and it's still here 2 days later!  That's not what I bargained for when I moved here!

So, I've stayed inside and finished painting my new cabinet and am in the process of filling it up with all my various art papers.  Right now, my studio is a royal mess as everything was piled on my art table to make room for the new cabinet so I've got to sort through all of that and decide where each type of paper should go.  This is NOT the fun part as I'm notoriously unskilled at organization.  Once something is organized, I tend to keep it that way, but deciding how it should be organized is giving me a brain freeze!

That's why it's taken me this long to decide what I want in the studio and how I should arrange it.  My husband gave me carte blanche in the home improvement store for Christmas and insists I get cabinets and counters ordered.  That's great but every time I tell him what I'd like, he comes up with a reason why it would be impractical!  Like, there's a short wall that I think would be ideal for my computer desk and peripherals table or a counter but my DH has pointed out that the phone line is on the opposite wall across the room.  Since I use the phone line to connect for DSL internet access, I really need to have my computer close enough to connect to it.  I'm not so sure that's a real problem though as I'm sure the phone line can be moved.  I'm also sure my DH wouldn't be thrilled to have to do it since it would involve crawling under the house!  I could have the phone company or an independent contractor move it, but I know my sweetie would rather do it himself even if it means crawling through cobwebs in a dark place.  I can just see him moving the phone line then I find out later that moving my computer to the new area just isn't working after all!  He's a wonderful, patient and indulgent man but I think that could cause some major words between us!

So, these kinds of problems keep me in a dither about how to organize and I tend to do nothing instead of forging ahead and maybe making a mistake!

Are any of you out there any good at organization?  Any suggestions would be more than welcome!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Early Christmas Present

Again, I've been negligent about keeping up my blog but I've been extremely busy plus, I sometimes wonder if anyone actually reads or cares whether I've posted anything or not!  But, that's beside the point right now.  I wanted to show you all a fabulous Christmas gift I got yesterday from some very dear friends.

Dave, an excellent woodworker as you can see, made this storage unit after Joy, his wife, designed it.  My husband added his input also and everyone kept it secret from me for weeks!

This unit is so perfect for storing my papers although I need to finish the shelves to block any wood acids from affecting my papers (Dave ran out of time plus no one was sure if I would want the unit painted or stained).  The top shelf is plenty big enough for even large sheets of matboard and the shelves on the viewer's right are perfect for large sheets of watercolor paper, PastelMat or other large sheets and the shelves on the viewer's left are perfect for pads and odd sheets that I use.

The drawers are deep enough so that I can store aerosol cans of fixative or other tall items.  I'm even going to try to put up a rack or holder of some sort inside a drawer to be able to store brushes point down away from any dust.  I don't know if it will work but it seems like a good idea anyway!

Anyway, I'm absolutely thrilled with this very generous gift.  It's taken me over three years but I'm finally getting a handle on what I need and want as far as storage and workspace here in the studio goes.  It will take a while longer to get it all done but, if anyone is interested, I'll post the finished result here.

Now, I'm off to figure out what I need to finish the shelves and drawers and to get to work finishing them!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Card - Iris Folding

I've finally gotten the photos for another commission but while I was waiting, I decided to try a new-to-me craft.  I haven't done much crafting in the past few years because painting has taken all of my time and energy.  But, after finishing several commissions, I was sort of burnt out on painting but wanted to do something creative.

Carole, from Art Plus, got me curious about iris folding with the beautiful work she does with it.  So, when I happened upon a pattern and some basic instructions, I decided to try it.  This little bell still isn't finished as I don't have the supplies that most paper artists use.  The paper I used for this is actually just some Christmas gift wrap that caught my eye when I got it out of storage.  The examples I've seen of various iris folded cards use 3 or more colors/patterns for the different areas of the design.  As I said, I didn't have any specialty papers on hand and it's really too far to go to get anything decent.  However, I really enjoyed doing this and will keep my eyes open for papers I can use in future projects.

Now, on to the next dog portrait!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I didn't realize how much time has flown since I posted last!  I finished up some extra cards and other odds and ends for my last customers then attended an open house at the gallery (Raleigh Street Gallery) where some of my art is displayed.

The open house was very quiet with very few people but several sales were made.  I didn't see any original art sold but cards, prints and decorative items seemed to do well so it wasn't a complete wash-out.  I ended up working on a pear still life set up by a designer who displays at the gallery also.  The set up wasn't really to my liking so I changed some things around (on paper) and it still didn't ring any bells for me.  Of course, most still life set ups don't inspire me much as painting subjects,  but I feel that I ought to paint some if only for practice.  Anyway, never did finish the painting and probably won't. 

Now I'm trying to get ready for Thanksgiving!  I've done several dishes ahead of time and will do more today but it's still time-consuming to prepare a large meal like that! 

That's my excuse for not posting and I'm sticking to it!  My dear husband will be home for four days and it's so hard to do much when your schedule is disrupted so I probably won't post much until next week.  I'll do better after everything settles down though - I promise!

Hope everyone in the US has a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I'm very thankful for all of you!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Serious Thinking

It seems that when it rains, it pours sometimes and I've just received word that both of my recent commissions have had devastating news concerning pets in their lives.
I'm waiting to hear the outcome of a referral visit to our state vet school where Allee, the little female Coton de Tulears that I just painted was sent after she was found to have a tumor in her mouth.  

And, when I delivered the portrait of Kelly, the Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix, the owner told me that bone cancer had so debilitated one of their dogs that she was going to be euthanized that day.  

I only met both of these ladies recently when they commissioned me to paint their dogs and both have become special to me.  Maybe it's because there's a bond to begin with because of our love of our pets but my heart is breaking for both of them.  It's especially difficult with Allee because I got to meet this little one in person and just fell in love with her and her "brother", Max.  I know how much her owners love her too and that makes it doubly sad.  

However, I'm really trying to stay positive here as I haven't yet heard how the appointment with the specialist at the vet school went.  There's a possibility that the tumor can be treated and that's where I make my mind stay.

And, while Kelly had passed across the bridge some time ago and I didn't know her or her "sister", I still feel the pain of my customer.  It's so difficult to lose one of your fur children and even more so to face the possibility that you might.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Max and Allee WIP Final Perhaps

I think I've just about finished the portrait of Max and Allee.  I've sent the photo of it to the client to see if they have any requests for changes and I'm going to let it "marinate" for a while but I think I'm pretty much finished.

This photo is cropped pretty tightly so only the puppies show, btw.

If anyone sees anything, please let me know!

Spent most of this morning at the Art of the Carolinas Trade Show put on by Jerry's Artarama in Raleigh and got some new art supplies.  Actually, I bought more at Jerry's store than I did at the show as I didn't need as much and it didn't seem that there were as many vendors there as in years past.  I only purchased from one vendor this year - Savor Faire - and I got some Cretacolor pastel pencils and some kind of mega white charcoal stick.  They had the sticks in several colors but I wasn't really into them enough to buy more.  I did play with them and liked that they went on smoothly but just didn't have a need for them right now. 

I also played with the Sennelier oil pastels there.  They only had expensive sets at the show and I don't know that I would ever get into oil pastels so I waited until I got to the Jerry's store and bought a few individual colors that I thought I'd use.  I also got some acid-free foam board which I can rarely find around here and it's way too expensive to order.  I wish Jerry's was closer as it's sure nice to be able to get items like that locally but ----. 

Derwent had a booth at the show but didn't have any of the new pastel pencils with them.  I was disappointed but stuff like that happens!  lol

The highlight of the morning was getting to chat with Brenda Mattson.  I've wanted to take her pastel pet painting workshop at the trade show forever but it's never worked out so I could.  I had hoped she'd eventually put her workshop on dvd but it doesn't sound as if she's much interested in doing that.  She also didn't seem to be interested in publishing a book.  She said her workshop this time had 21 people in it and she didn't like to have more than 10 so she could give everyone individual attention.  That's why it would be so nice if she had a dvd or book showing her methods.  She's a really nice person and I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time to meet her. 

Tomorrow it's back to the grindstone.  I have at least one more portrait to do and am still waiting on the pictures on another but I still may take a little time out to play!  lol

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Little Coton deTulears

This is Max on the left and Allee on the right.  They are Coton de Tulears and are what I am working on currently.  I got to meet these two little fireballs and fell in love with them instantly.  They're very active but also very, very sweet.

I'm using various pastels and pastel pencils on PastelMat from Clairefontaine for this portrait  Although I've worked on the PastelMat in the past and was beginning to like it, it has a little quirk that just popped up with this painting that I really don't like.  It dents very easily and the dents are hard to cover.  I used my Jack Richeson semi-hard pastel square sticks/and pastel pencils for sketching the two dogs and I had to bear down quite a bit in order for the color to show.  This dented the surface of the paper and it's been very difficult to cover.  Also, using the pastel pencils in the eye area for instance has also left "furrows" in the base of soft pastel and on into the paper.  The only way I've been able to cover them is to use the very hard white pastel stick that I received in the Derwent samples not too long ago. 

I guess it could just be this particular piece or maybe even color of PastelMat as I hadn't noticed this happening the other times I've used it. 

Anyway, it's going pretty well and I got so involved in working on it that I forgot to stop and take any photos of the progression.  It's still not finished as you can see so I'll try to be a little better about photos as I go. 

And, no, Christine, I don't have the eyes completely finished yet but I did add a little highlight in Max's eye just for you!  lol

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This is the second update on Kelly, the commission of the Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix.  I think I'm getting into the short rows but am awaiting comments from the owner.

Kelly's portrait is for a Christmas gift and I want it to be perfect, of course.  Trying to determine her coloring has been a bit touch and go as each of the photos I received from the owner has been pretty different.  She also sent a link to a dog online that she said she thought had similar coloring.  So, I hope I got it right.  The biggest challenge has been the dark areas.

The owner said Kelly's dark areas had gotten darker as she aged and she didn't want them as dark as they show in the reference photo.  I've lightened them considerably and, again, hope they're what the customer wants.  It's really difficult when the reference photos show one thing and the client's memory is different.

I'm also still working on the Cotons and will be posting a wip of that painting in the near future since I told a couple of regular readers that I would.  I've just gotten the color choices for the bows in the little girl Coton's pigtails though so I haven't done enough on her for you to see much right now.  I've made a pretty good start on the little boy though.

I'm really staying busy right now but will update here as soon as I can.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Kelly - New Commission WIP

This is Kelly, a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix who crossed the bridge a while ago.  Kelly was much loved by the husband of the lady who commissioned the portrait and the portrait will be his Christmas gift.

This is pastel on velour with a mixture of various brands of semi-hard pastel sticks, soft pastel and pastel pencils.  I'm just in the blocking in stage right now so it looks very weird, I know. 

The reference photos were from hard copies which weren't the best in the world but I got the opportunity to talk to the customer at length about Kelly's coloring so I hope to be able to portray her accurately.  She looks to have been a beautiful dog with many features of a Golden Retriever.  That helps a lot since I've painted several Goldens.

I can see that she looks a little scrunched down here when in reality she has a very alert, proud bearing in the reference photos.  I'll address that as I proceed.

I'll also be posting a couple of Coton de Tulears that I'm working on.  I've started on it also but am not at the stage where you could make much sense of a photo of them!

So, don't be alarmed if you don't see much of me here - I'm busy working in the studio but I'll try to post more wips as I paint!

Friday, November 5, 2010

More on ColourFix Suede in the US

I just read that Art Spectrum (or it's distributors) is having problems getting the new ColourFix Suede paper into retail markets in the US.  It appears that it will be after the first of the year before it's widely available.  Bummer for an arts supply junkie like me.

I've also heard that it is similar to Clairefontaine's PastelMat as I suspected and which I'm beginning to like more and more.  Hopefully, the ColourFix Suede will be as good, in better colors and cheaper than the PastelMat!

I'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Art Festival Musings

Well, the art festival I told you about in a previous blog post was this past weekend and I actually enjoyed it.

It was held in a large barn out in the country and I'd wondered if anyone would find their way out to us.  But, the show was well publicized and we had a surprising (to me) number of visitors.  There were numerous events scheduled for the same time frame but I think that actually worked in our favor as people were out and about and stopped by on their way to or from other activities.

Did I sell a lot?  Not really, a few note cards and magnets but no original art.  That doesn't surprise me though as most people don't carry around the price of an original painting with them.  But, I did have considerable interest in pet portrait commissions and hope there will be some people who actually follow through.

As I said, I normally don't like to do street fairs or these kinds of festivals.  Most of the time you work yourself to the bone in preparation, set-up and tear-down and generally, for me at least, barely make back your costs.  This time it was sort of fun though - it was fairly small as it was the first time but all the vendors were very congenial and the people who attended were in good moods.  The weather was gorgeous and we were surrounded by farm animals, including 3 gorgeous horses.  There was breathing room with real fresh air instead of crowded city streets filled with gas fumes and the sometimes unpleasant blending of food smells.

So, this festival was fun and, while not exceedingly profitable, at least I got an opportunity to give out business cards and get a little name recognition.  Hopefully it will pay off with future commissions but, if it doesn't, it was still fun!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Diabolical Eyes

"Diabolical Eyes"
About 6x2 inches
Pastel on PastelMat

I'm supposed to be preparing for this upcoming art festival but, as usual, I got distracted when I saw a little scrap of PastelMat lying on my work table.  Thought this closeup of a cat's eyes was suitable for the upcoming Halloween holiday.
Now, somebody get the whip out and make me get back to work!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Exhibition Title Cards

I mentioned that I'm busy getting ready for an art festival in a couple of weeks and one facet of the preparation is designing those cards that are placed beside a painting to give viewers information about the painting.  I didn't even know what they were called until I went searching to see how other artists were handling this aspect of showing their work.

I guess I was fortunate to have stumbled onto a couple of mentions of them or I may not have found any information at all as there doesn't seem to be
much about them on the internet.

If you show in a gallery, most of the time the gallery furnishes these cards and they're usually plain white, simply functional cards.  However, many art festivals and shows leave this part up to the artist and I've seen some very eye-catching cards out there.

I do want to catch some eyes, of course, but I also want my paintings to attract more attention than the informational title cards so I wanted to keep it attractive, yet simple.  I've posted three designs that I've come up with but nothing feels quite right so far. 

It's also been suggested that these cards contain a thumbnail image of the painting on display so that there's no confusion as to which painting the information belongs to.  I've also heard that a card with the thumbnail image could also serve as provenance or a certificate of authenticity with additional information on the back of the card.

Have any of you had experience with these cards or do you have any thoughts on them and how they can be used to promote your art?  What about thoughts on what they should be called?  lol

Let me know which you like best (or if you hate them all) or any suggestions you might have.

I'll be checking the comments here but may not be posting a whole lot as it's a lot of work to prepare for these shows.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Framing Paintings on Suede

A couple of posts ago, I was singing the praises of using suede paper as as support for pastel painting.  This post will tell you how difficult it is to frame paintings on suede supports!  lol

I'm participating in an arts festival the weekend of the 23rd of this month and am trying to get paintings selected and framed and just stuff ready for the event. 

The painting of the dog (Chevy) that I'd painted on the suede paper gave me a very hard no matter what I did, the pastel would fall off.  I sprayed it several times with fixative and even that didn't seem to help. 

I ended up tapping the back of the painting to get rid of as much loose pastel as I dared then I attached the hanger wire holders to the frame and attached one end of the hanger wire.  I left the frame in an upright position, cleaned and inserted the glass into the frame, added the top mat, then the inner mat turned to face the painting (to capture any pastel dust that might still fall).  Finally I added the painting and the backing board. 

After trying several times to frame this painting and cleaning the glass numerous times after each failure, I finally got the dog framed!  I guess the secret is to leave the frame upright during the whole framing process!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quick Draw II - Pumpkin

We took a car trip to Kansas from North Carolina a couple of weeks ago and I took the small Conte sketch kit I bought at Jerry's.  I also took some of the pastel paper that I don't particularly like as I thought it would be good enough to play on.  It was really difficult to paint in the car but I did a series of quick sketches of things out the window or from my imagination or, as this drawing, a combination.

We saw countless fresh air markets and fields displaying pumpkins for sale.  I decided to take advantage of the orange Tiziano paper to do this quick sketch of a pumpkin. The little Conte pastel kit has 12 crayons in good, basic colors, a sanguine and a black Conte pencil and a charcoal pencil, a kneaded eraser and a couple of tortillions for blending.  It's perfect for painting on the go as it has a lot of stuff in a small space.  I wish it were in a tin of some kind though as I had to put stretch wrap around the plastic base to hold everything in.  Maybe I can find a tin of the right size one of these days.

It was fun and beneficial to do these little sketches - they not only saved me from total boredom riding hour after hour, I got to practice trees and rocks and other things that I normally can't get quite right in pastel.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Still Playing Fast and Loose

The challenge last month at Paint My Photo was to paint a photo in an hour or less and Teresa at Blueberries, Art and Life has been doing some remarkable paintings in 20 minutes or less.  I'm a slow painter so I've been trying these exercises to try to speed up at least some. 

The idea is to paint as quickly as possible and still retain the quality you want your finished piece to have.  That means deleting unnecessary elements and keeping the important ones.  It means making every stroke count.

This is one of the Cotons I've been commissioned to paint as a Christmas gift.  She's an absolutely adorable dog and I thought I'd practice quick painting with her.  I think I need more practice!

Watercolor on Kilimanjaro cold pressed paper

Monday, October 4, 2010

On a Painting Binge

I've been on somewhat of a painting binge here lately and just finished the portrait on the left yesterday.  It's from the Paint My Photo site and is from a reference photo by Carrie Layne Mashon.

This is Conte, soft pastel, and pastel pencils on some suede paper from a scrapbook supply store.  I've been wanting to try the suede matboard that some artists use but it's not available locally that I can find and it's pretty pricey to order since there's a 10 sheet minimum.  The paper I bought is acid and lignon-free and I thought it would do well for experimenting.  The size is about 8 x 10 inches.

I really, really like the suede for use with pastel and the painting went very quickly with little to no dust!  I used a brown color paper for this painting and the light-colored, harder pastels didn't cover that well and that's really my only complaint with the paper.  I have one Sennelier soft stick in white that works well so I can see that if I intend to use the suede much, I'll have to invest in some softer pastels!

Oh, just thought of the new suede paper from ColourFix!  It's still not available where I shop but I'm really hoping it's as wonderful to paint on as this was!   Just think, I can get new paper and new pastels!  I'd better hurry up and finish the commissions that are waiting as I see a shopping binge coming to match my painting binge!  lol

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Toddler and Chicken - giving up

Well, this looks a little over-saturated to me but looked good on my graphics software so I don't know how you'll see it.

Sue and Christine gave me some good advice that I tried to follow but am not sure how successful I was.  I guess it's not bad considering that I'm not a people portrait painter and it's terrible if I were!  lol  We'll just call it somewhere in the middle and also call it finished as I don't have the heart to keep messing with it.  It's already getting somewhat muddy.

I've not shown it to the parents nor to anyone else, for that matter.  I'll do some slight smoothing then email it to my vet and see what he says.

Now, on to other things - I still have the Rottie to finish and also have a commission for two Coton de Tulears to paint.  I go to meet the Cotons next week and I'm excited about that as it will be the first time seeing that breed in person.

Until next time!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Toddler With Chicken WIP

I don't know if any of you remember the pastel I was working on quite a while ago but I've picked it up again and made a small amount of progress.  This one is really frustrating me because I really like the reference photo but can't seem to get my painting to measure up to it.

For what it's worth, here's a small update.  Any help gratefully received!

Oh, one of the items I bought at Jerry's was a small Conte' crayon and pencil set.  One of the pencils was the color "sanguine" which seems to be working well for the ruddy complexion of the child when overlaid with a peachy skin color.  The skin color still isn't there yet but nothing is finished at this point.

Various pastels/pastel pencils on Ampersand PastelBord - 5x7" size.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vacation - of sorts

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Kansas to visit with my family.  I've seen my family but hadn't been to the house I mostly grew up in since my mother died in 1996 so it was an emotional journey as well as a physical one.  I still couldn't stay there and thank my sister for letting us stay at their house.

It was wonderful to get to see my father and my four sisters and many of their family members as well but it's also tiring to drive such a long way.  It's also really hard to get any one-on-one time with anyone in such a crowded setting!

We didn't do anything much except eat and talk but it was like old times for us all to be together again.

Most of our trip was overcast but I did manage to photograph this chicory (I think!) flower growing wild at a little roadside park.  The one thing I wish I'd gotten was the "smoke" as we were driving through the Great Smoky Mountains!  I've lived in North Carolina for nearly 35 years and have driven through those mountains countless times but this was the first time I'd seen exactly why the mountains were called the Smokies. 

Yes, I've seen the billowing mists that hover over the mountain peaks and drift down along the sides and yes, it does look like smoke arising from those mountains.  But, yesterday as we were driving home, I saw white columns of mist that looked exactly like campfire smoke dotting the mountain sides!  It was truly awesome and I wished I could have gotten to my camera to document the event.  Unfortunately, my husband had packed the camera in its bag in the trunk as he was loading everything from our night in a motel and I didn't notice until I reached for it to try to photograph that "smoke"!

Anyway, we're back and I hope to catch up with everyone soon!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Black Cat Time of Year

I don't know about you but we're beginning to see lots of spider webs, a few falling leaves and some signs that fall is nearly here in spite of our 90 degree temperatures.  It's still a little while before Halloween but I thought a black cat might be appropriate right about now.

This is Leonie and she seemed very appropriate for the season even though she isn't solid black.  She was painted in gouache on Arches rough 140# paper.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Art Spectrum's Colourfix Suede Paper

I think there are several readers here who use Art Spectrum's Colourfix paper.  A while ago it was announced that they were introducing a new paper - Colourfix Suede.  Being the art supply junkie that I am, I had to find out all I could about it.

I received the following email today concerning the availability of the new paper here in the US.

Hello Jan,

Thank you for your interest in Art Spectrum 
Colourfix Suede Paper.   It is so new
that it has just arrived in the United States 
last week for the first time!!!  Right
now it is available in just a few select 
stores, but we have recently shipped some
to the following store and you will be 
able to order it by mail in the near future:
Dakota Art Store, 1-888-345-0067, 

Please let me know if we can be of further 

Kind regards,

Lori Villalonga
Armadillo Art & Craft 

Armadillo Art and Craft is the US distributor for Art Spectrum products and I'd like to thank Lori for her prompt reply to my query about the suede paper.

I don't have any idea about the price or anything much else about it but have heard it will be available in 8 colors and 2 sizes.  It's supposed to be a "softer" version of the current Colourfix paper.  Hmmmm, don't know exactly what that means but it sounds somewhat like a PastelMat competitor.

If anyone tries it, please let us know how you like it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

No Sense of Humor

We went to Jerry's Artarama yesterday and I got a literal handful of items and spent nearly $40!  The nice clerk told me I'd saved $50+ dollars but I didn't stop to debate her.  Just glad I didn't pay what they said was full price!  Jerry's was crowded but that's probably usual for a holiday weekend.  People are off work and want to pursue their hobbies or just relax.  I wanted to play with my new toys too.

Most women don't get holidays off though.  As a matter of fact, my husband asked me this morning if I was going to wash clothes.  He said he was out of underwear.  I said I had just caught up all the laundry and surely he had clean clothes.  He said rather sarcastically that he did wear a pair of underwear a day after all.

My husband usually is very good-natured and funny but scowled and stomped off when I suggested that he cut it back to a pair every other day.

Sometimes even the funniest men just don't have a sense of humor!

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Derwent Pastel Pencils

 Derwent Pastel Pencils on UArt 800
ATC size

I received the promised samples of Derwent's new formula pastel pencils on Saturday and I have to say that I'm impressed.  To be honest, I didn't think I would be as Derwent's were at the bottom of my list of favorite pencils.  I only had a few of the old formula Derwents but they seemed to have chunks of something hard in them and were sometimes scratchy to use.  As with all the brands I've used, some colors were scratchier than others.

These new pastel pencils are creamier and go on easily and smoothly.  I haven't checked their lightfastness yet as I've been going full-tilt since I received them but I've heard that they are pretty lightfast.  I'm sure some colors are better than others but it's that way with all brands.

So, would I buy these pencils?  Definitely yes.  The only disappointment is that the pencils are just a hair larger around than standard sized pencils and won't fit into my pencil sharpeners.  The standard sized hole on my electric sharpener is just a little too small and the larger hole in the handheld sharpener is too big.  I can make it work but the core breaks easily and I need to go slow and very carefully.  I think it will be back to a craft knife and sandpaper for these.

As I said, I've been on  the go all weekend and have just done a very quick trial to see how they worked for me.  The painting above is from a reference photo by Teresa from and please know that my quick sketch in no way reflects her skill as a photographer!

I received four sample pencils - Titanium White, Kingfisher Blue, Dark Fuchsia, and Naples Yellow.  I also received the much-touted blending stick, a very hard white, square stick that helps blend large areas or one area into another.  I wanted to use just the new pencils as a test and Teresa's photo contained colors closest to the samples I received so you won't see a refined painting here.  But, I do hope you can see the smooth lay-down of the pastel and the way the pastel blends even into areas where the blending stick wasn't used.

Thanks for the new formula, Derwent!  I'm very excited by the release of these new pastel pencils!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Agility Dogs

Sometimes the little dogs get a bad rap and are viewed more as little spoiled companions instead of a small dog with big abilities.  I just finished this painting of a little terrier going through an agility trial - something he should excel at doing.

This painting was done in gouache in a watercolor type manner and on Arches rough watercolor paper.  Gouache isn't my normal medium so it was fun to explore it a bit more.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Choices and Compromises and New Formulas

Well, our new laptop arrived and I've been busy trying to set up everything the way we want it.  All the technical stuff is done but I'm totally undecided about an image/graphics editor.

I've been a very loyal user of Paint Shop Pro since its version 7 but the reviews for the current version are abysmal and I'm looking for a new software.  It would have to do all that PSP does but without the glitches, bugs and bloat!  lol

I've been researching PS Elements but its current version is not winning accolades either so what does that leave?

Serif's software, PhotoPlus, is getting great reviews but the company gets a D minus for its strong-arm sales tactics.  I've downloaded "free" & "trial" software from them and the nag screens are so cumbersome you can't even properly evaluate the software.  I'm told that in order to register any purchased software, you have to call and be subjected to an interminable sales pitch for add-ons before you get your registration unlock key to even use the software.  No thanks on that - that's a compromise as far as I'm concerned.

I know there's a lot of free software out there also & I keep downloading various ones but they just don't quite fill the bill.  I'm not against purchasing software - I just want what I want, especially if I'm going to pay for it (& I don't want to pay to listen to a sales pitch!)

Any suggestions?

On the topic of compromise and making choices, I just emailed to see if I could receive some samples of Derwents new pastel pencils.  You all probably know that I'm not a fan of the old formula pencils but I'm almost frantically hoping the new formula will suit me as the Derwent brand is available in places relatively close to me.  While I hate driving in congested city traffic, I don't mind mail order for my art supplies.  But, that requires planing ahead - something I'm not always so good about doing!  Right now, I need some new pastel replacement pencils to work on a couple of commissions and I'll have to mail order them.  It would be wonderful to be able to go somewhere local to get them.  (Well, you know nothing is really local but even 30 miles wouldn't be a burden to drive.)

Anyway, if I receive the samples of the new formula Derwent pencils, I'll be sure to review them here.  If any of my readers in the UK or elsewhere have already used them, please let us know what YOU think about them!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Art Walk Featured Artist

Well, last night was the Third Friday Art Walk in beautiful downtown Siler City (NC) and I was the featured artist at the Raleigh Street Gallery.  I have to admit that it sounds a little more impressive than it actually was but maybe my experience will help others who do a public demonstration of their art.

Siler City is a small town to begin with and the only restaurant usually open in downtown during the Art Walk closed its doors this past week.  I didn't realize it would have that big an impact but there were very few people out last night.  At the last Art Walk there were large crowds and it was one of the hottest evenings on record so I was expecting at least a crowd that large since last night was somewhat cooler and less humid.

Ok, so the crowd was disappointing but it was still sorta, kinda fun to be painting in a public place.  I think I was more comfortable doing it since there weren't many people watching me.  There were a few people who did stop by to watch and everyone was very complimentary so that also helped.

But, I want to tell you artists more about the process than the results so you might be better prepared than I was.  The gallery owner had said to have at least a start on whatever I was going to work on so I put in the background and eyes of the beautiful Rottie that I was going to paint.  I didn't want to have too much done but I needn't have worried about that - I barely got started before it was time to leave.  Not only that but I got it to the "ugly" stage about the time people actually started to come in.  So, I advise you to get your painting to a recognizable stage then work on the details at the demonstration.

Another thing that bothered me and hindered me in working was the fact that I was given a table and chair as my work area.  I'm told that artists are less intimidating and more approachable if they're sitting down so that was good.  But, I normally work standing up at a cabinet-height work table.  I do this so I can step back and get a better overall view of what I've done.  Sitting down sort of skewed my perception of where I needed to go with the painting.  Not a huge problem but it was a bit unsettling since I was already nervous.  It might be a good idea for you to practice working in a setting similar to what will be provided at the demo area.

All in all, it was good experience and I think I'd do it again.  I'm grateful for a terrific band last night as I was seated next to the area where they were performing.  They were playing some good oldies songs but they weren't blasting me out of the gallery.  The band was called Nitro Express and they were wonderful to listen to.  If you have need of a band to perform at some function for you, I'd recommend them.

In conclusion, I got a decent start on Crissy, shown above.  She's being painted on Ampersand PastelBord with various brands of pastels and pastel pencils.  The Ampersand is one of my favorite supports anyway but I specifically chose it because it is a board and it's just easier for me to deal with in this kind of situation.  In fact, I was amazed at how little I had to pack up and carry to the gallery for the demo.  Another plus for this medium!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CiCi - Finished? Thank You, Jane!

I think I'm finished with CiCi's portrait but will let it sit around for a few days just in case I see something that needs to be tweaked.  Oh, the colors in this scan show brighter and more pronounced than they are in reality.  Also, the shadow area around her mouth isn't really pink but I used a mauve-y gray there and when I sprayed with SpectraFix, the area became more pink and shows up worse in this scan.  This is the first color change I've had using SpectraFix and I think it's because I used it heavily as Teo 21 suggested in a comment on Poppy.  I didn't get any spots though!

I have to thank my dear friend, Jane, for helping me see why I couldn't paint our babies before.  I'm still not sure about this one, whether it really captures her or not but my husband thinks it does and he's the "customer" in this case!  At least I finally finished a portrait of our fur child so Thank you, Jane!

If you all see anything that could be better, don't hesitate to let me know!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CiCi Again - WIP In Pastel 2

Found a bit of time this afternoon to give CiCi's portrait a few strokes and it's taking shape but it will still be a while before it's finished.

Had some electronic issues so we took advantage of our state's "tax free weekend" last Friday, Saturday and Sunday to get some computer stuff we wanted and needed. 

I had asked some of you about your printers and I thank everyone who gave me input - it helped me decide on the one I felt would be best for us.  I know Teresa at least is curious, so I'll tell you that we got a Canon all-in-one as the price and quality was too good to pass up.  I had pretty much decided on a Canon but didn't want to go with their "professional" model as I don't do my own prints and really don't print a whole lot of anything except the few note cards I give as a "thank you" for those who order portraits and a few note cards that I stock in a local pet food store.  If I need a large amount of them, I have them printed as that's just more economical. 

Anyway, I had decided a regular photo printer would be best for us but no one had any in stock that had the resolution and quality that I'd wanted.  However, this all-in-one had the desired resolution and the test prints looked great (but don't they always!  lol) and it was on sale so I went ahead and bought it.  So far I'm very pleased with it.  I actually think the scanner does a better job than the stand-alone scanner I have.

We also ordered a laptop as they were also on sale.  I thought this would be the year that I could finally get a Mac but my husband insisted on a Dell.  I have a sister who is a die-hard Apple fan and she insists that once I use a Mac, I'll never buy a PC again.  I don't know about that - sometimes I wonder if all the hype about Macs is true or not.  I think PCs have taken great strides in quality in the past few years but I know in the past there were some really junky PC's with high prices out there.  I'm sure Mac users will jump all over me but anymore it seems that Macs would have to be gold-plated and never break down to be worth the price difference.  But, I've never used one so I probably shouldn't say that.

Oh, well, the new laptop is supposed to be here next week and I'm sure it will do very well for us.  I'll let you know how we like it.

And, I'll let you know as soon as I finish C's portrait!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CiCi - WIP in Pastel

All righty folks, step right up and be the witness to a first.  I'm attempting a portrait of our "new" little dog, CiCi, and those of you who have followed me for a while know I've never really done a portrait of one of our own pets.

I always wanted to, and I tried, but they just never looked right.  A dear friend suggested that I couldn't paint our own babies because I knew them in many different moods and many different positions and poses and one static painting just couldn't portray them in my own eyes.  She may be right, and if she is, perhaps that insight will allow me to finally paint one of our own.  Understanding is often the first step in breaking down certain barriers.

So, here goes!  It's pastel on a dark gray Ampersand PastelBord, 8x10 size which is still almost larger than life-size for her!  Right now I'm just laying in some under colors.  I asked my husband if he wanted me to paint her with her tongue in her mouth but we both agreed that it would not be her without her tongue hanging out.  Also, most of the time her tongue just sticks out a little bit but when her head is tilted in that cute way, it does fall out further and we decided to go with that even though she may look slightly demented to other people. lol 

For those of you who don't know her story and the reason why her tongue sticks out, here is the reason why.  We got her from a rescue agency back in May of this year.  They told us that she was probably a purebred Maltese used for breeding, about 4 or 5 years old.  She had been found running down a very busy highway outside of Raleigh, NC.  They said she was dirty, her hair matted, her nails grown into the pads of her paws and her teeth so rotten and infected that they all had to be pulled.

Without teeth, a dog can't keep it's tongue in its mouth very well and that's the reason CiCi's tongue hangs out much of the time.  We don't care about that - she's really sweet and not a yappy little ankle-biter like many small dogs.  She eats soft dog foods but can actually eat just about anything a regular dog can eat if she has enough time to really gum it!  lol  Seriously, she really fits our household well and even if she does look funny with her tongue hanging out, we still love her and besides, just think of all the money we save on teeth cleaning!

But back to the portrait at hand.  There's still a lot to be done and my time is pretty limited right now so I'm posting this wip in hopes you all will hold me accountable.  It's actually going fairly quickly and I hope I'll remember to get photos of the progress.  Sometimes I just get to painting and it's finished before I remember to scan or photograph!

As always, if you see anything that needs adjusting, please let me know!

Dura-Lar Matte Drafting Film

Some time ago I was asked to participate in a short survey about Dura-Lar film by Grafix Plastics.  The questions were about how I used Dura-Lar as an artist and I was promised a pack of the Dura-Lar of my choice for participating. 

Most of the time I refuse to do surveys as so much of the time they are only using the information submitted to spam you later.  But this time felt different and I decided to answer the questions.  Besides, I do like the Dura-Lar and would like to see it more widely available as an artist's support.

Anyway, my packet of the Dura-Lar Matte arrived yesterday!  I really didn't know if I would actually receive it so it's nice to know that the company who manufactures a product I like is also good for their word!

So, thank you very much, Grafix Plastics!  You can be assured that I will use the Dura-Lar Matte with great delight and thank you also for making such a great product!

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Portrait Painting & Some Observations

I just finished the portrait shown and delivered it to the customer yesterday.  This one went fairly easily and I just love this little dog's face.  It's a pastel done on velour paper and everything went fine until I began to spray between the layers.

Velour is a funny/odd substrate in that pastel will all fall off when you don't want it to and will cling tenaciously when you want to remove it!  I swear it seems to know the difference!  So, to prevent problems, I normally spray with fixative between layers then leave the top layer alone or spray very lightly.

I reviewed the SpectraFix fixative not too long ago here on my blog and that is what I used on this portrait.  It's about the only fixative I've ever used that doesn't change the color of the pastel and I think it's the best fixative out there.

However, even with the utmost care, it can "sputter" and leave large drops of the fixative on the painting.  I've had it happen both on paper and with the velour and it's very difficult to correct as the spots show up clearly.  There's not much you can do to correct the spots on paper and even going over the spot with more pastel sometimes doesn't cover it completely.  Normally it's a bit easier on the velour, fortunately.  I waited for the spots to dry completely then took a stiff bristle brush to gently brush the fixative off as much as possible and to sort of fluff up the nap.  I can add back pastel if needed to cover completely but usually the velour doesn't need it.

This time it didn't work that well and the spots were really visible on the background where there was no pastel to begin with.  I ended up adding a halo effect with pastel around the dog to hide the spots.  This worked, fortunately.

I'll know in the future to shield any areas without pastel to protect from these spots! 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Framing Questions

We've had a bunch of stuff to do this morning so am just now getting time to ask you all some questions about framing.  Here's the deal -

A friend's husband may get laid off from his job and is seriously considering opening a frame shop.  He's always made the frames and cut the mats for all their picture framing needs and I'm sure he'd do very well.  He's asked what is expected of a framer, particularly from an artist's point of view.  What do you all want most when you go to have a piece of art framed?  What would you like to say to all the frame shops out there?

OK, that's it, that's all I wanted to ask.  I'd like to give him a good overview of framing from our point of view so any relevant comments most welcome!

Making My Own Hardboard Supports - Again

I'm again making some more of those hardboard painting supports.  When I was looking for frames to frame my art for the gallery, I found some odd-sized frames at really good prices so I bought those too.  I figured I could paint to fit the frames since frames are notoriously expensive.

So, I'm s-l-o-w-l-y building up the layers of gesso and it always takes so much time for the layers to dry.  Well, dry isn't exactly the right word.  I got frustrated with the drying time and did a search to find out why I had to wait so long between layers.  After all, the gesso appeared to be completely dry.

Again, it's not that the gesso has to dry but it does have to cure.  I'm using acrylic gesso, by the way, and apparently, acrylics of any kind dry from the outside in and that takes a while.  They initially form a skin over the surface of the paint/gesso then it takes quite a while for the interior paint to dry.  How long depends on the thickness of the application, the temperature and the humidity level.

So, if the gesso is not allowed to dry/cure completely, it may crack or may not adhere to the surface of the hardboard well.  It would be a major disaster if you painted on a poorly dried support and your painting cracked or fell off with the gesso!  So, I'm trying to be patient here.

All in all, the actual work of making these panels is really negligible as far as I'm concerned and I can certainly find something to do while the panels dry for a few hours. This is true especially in light of the huge savings over "store-bought" panels and the freedom to use those odd-sized frames!

Oh, speaking of frames, please check back later as I have some questions for all of you - artist or not.  If you've ever had something framed then I need your input!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day In The Life Of A Ditz

I'm pretty sure you all know that I can be a real ditz at times.  Or, maybe I'm no more ditzy than anyone else and it's just that I tell about my ditzy moments and no one else does!  Or, maybe the following just proves what a ditz I am!

Like many artists, I have many creative outlets and I used to sew quite a bit.  When the price of fabric and particularly patterns got to be so high in cost I gave it up so I could spend more time and money on my art.  But I've been hankering to get back to sewing at least a little and got my sewing machine out yesterday.  I tested it and could see that it needed a good cleaning and oiling so I spent this morning taking it apart as much as possible and practical and going over all the little nooks and crannies with a soft brush and the vacuum cleaner.  Then I oiled all the pertinent places and put it back together.  I proceeded to adjust the tensions and I have to say that I don't think it's ever run better.

And, no, I didn't sew over my finger - I'm not quite that ditzy!  But I did spend almost as much time trying to figure out how to attach the bottom of the carrying case to the bottom of the sewing machine as I spent on the maintenance!  Now, this thing is not necessary for the operation of the sewing machine and I doubt that it even needs to be attached in order to keep the machine in the case.  But I've always kept it attached as it's a lot easier to put the machine away if it is. 

It attaches with only 2 big headed screws and you'd think it would be easy to just whip it back on quickly.  Nope - not easy at all as there may be just 2 screws but there are at least 8 screw holes scattered over the bottom of the case and getting 2 of them to line up with the holes in the bottom of my sewing machine was almost impossible.

Doesn't that sound a little ditzy to you?  After all, here's someone who took an electric sewing machine apart and put it back together but who couldn't even attach a plastic case bottom to that same machine with 2 simple screws!  AAARGH!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Green Beans and Art Walks

We've been getting green beans from the garden for a while now and I decided to do a quick digital painting of one before they're all gone.  It's been too long since I've even opened Corel's Painter software and it was sad at how rusty I was even doing this simple painting.  It's all done from scratch using a real green bean as a model - no photo manipulation or anything.  I did add a shadow from the program though and didn't take the time to paint it (the shadow) freehand.  I used the gouache brush with the digital airbrush for the shading for those of you interested in the details.

A friend and I went to the 3rd Friday Art Walk in Siler City last evening and had a good time even though it was very hot out.  Siler City, an old farming town not far from us, was becoming almost a ghost town as businesses moved out to the highway and left a lot of empty stores downtown.  Someone had the bright idea to buy up all those empty stores and rent them out as art studios and galleries and now those empty buildings are bright with paintings, sculptures, photographs and various other artistic endeavors as artists from all over have come to set up shop in the town.  You can read about the NC Arts Incubator HERE.

I was fortunate to have been asked to display in one of the galleries a couple of weeks ago and wanted to go see how my paintings looked hanging for all to see.  I personally think this particular gallery is one of the nicest in town but it has a lot of various kinds of art and my paintings didn't stand out amidst the plethora of offerings I'm sad to say.

It's not that my paintings are inferior in quality or execution or anything, it's just that I tend to paint small and small gets lost among so many items.  I hope that doesn't sound like bragging or an excuse, but I do think my work is on par with other art in this gallery or any of the others in town.  I'm trying to be honest and say that there is art there that I think is better than my own and there's also art that I think is awful that's displayed there. I know you know what I mean.

If you want to check it out, here's a link to the gallery - it's called the Raleigh Street Gallery and is located on Raleigh Street (duh!) in Siler City, North Carolina:

You can check it out virtually or, if you get the chance, check it out in person!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

WAAAAY Outta My Comfort Zone!

Hi all.  I have been painting but just not posting all that regularly and this time, I think I've really over-reached myself!

This is a painting that I've started of my vet's son holding a chicken that's almost as big as he is- isn't he just the most precious thing you've ever seen?  The child has evidently inheirited his father's love of animals and when I saw the photo, I just had to try to paint it (& "try" is the operative word!).  I was given permission but now I wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew! 

You all have never seen a portrait of a human from me for a reason - I totally suck at them!  But, I'd really like to finish this one and do well with it.  So may I please get some advice from those of you who do such wonderful portrait work?

You can tell that this isn't finished but I've run into some problems.  The main thing is the shadow work - there are several very deep shadows on this fair-haired child but when I add them, he just looks dirty.  I've tried browns, red-browns, violets (purple ranges) and some green underpainting.  So, my main question is - how do I get those luscious deep shadows without the painting looking dirty or just downright weird?

Secondly, how do I keep the portrait fresh looking - the face especially looks as if it has makeup on it?  I'm seriously debating washing it all off and starting again but I know if I do, I won't ever go back to it.  BTW - this is pastel on Ampersand PastelBord.

I hope someone will answer but I won't be able to get back to this for a at least a week as I have a lot of things on the calendar for the foreseeable future.  I doubt that I'll even be able to post any more here for a time either.

Sooooo, think about it and please offer any suggestions you think might help - maybe with your suggestions and some fresh eyes, I can finally say I've painted a portrait - a human portrait!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

As I Was Saying -------

We had a storm last night and the photos here show what I was saying about the peach trees being so easily damaged.

The photo on the left is from our front orchard and between the weight of the peaches and the wind, the old tree just couldn't take it.

The photo on the right is of our back orchard and shows some more trees that split during the storm.  I didn't zoom in on them because I thought the rainbow was way more interesting to look at!  If you look closely, you can see that it touches down inside the orchard!

A careful search of the area did not result in the finding of any treasure!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And Now, Back to Pastel!

This is an ATC (2-1/2" x 3-1/2") I did for an exchange in an art forum I belong to.  It's pastel on the U-Art 800 sanded paper which I'm beginning to like better.  However, like all the other sanded papers, it sure doesn't photograph well!  This time I scanned it at about 600 dpi then reduced it for the web in my graphics software.  It still isn't quite true to the actual painting but maybe you get the ideal. 

I named it "All The Sweetness of Summer" as that first tree-ripened peach is the true indicator that summer is really here - at least for us.  We have about 100 peach trees but they're well over 20 years old and just aren't producing much any more.  They're also getting "brittle" and the least bit of wind will split the tree or at least break out branches.  Because of that, we're gradually taking them out.

That's really for the best though as we started out thinking that we could raise peaches organically.  Unfortunately, peaches are very disease-prone and the bugs love them too.  Organic methods work but constant attention is necessary and is very labor-intensive. 

So, we've planted a couple of new trees that we'll baby along and hope they'll produce enough peaches to herald in summer as well as enough for our table and the freezer!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

And Back To Watercolor

I belong to a group called "Paint My Photo" and Rich, one of the members, posted a photo of a Chickadee that I couldn't resist attempting to paint. 

Of course, after being away from watercolors for ages, I would decide to paint it on watercolor canvas (in a pad from Fredrix)!  The canvas buckled as badly as unstretched watercolor paper and it was difficult to paint on it.

However, paint lifts wonderfully from the canvas so any mistakes wipe right off and can be re-painted.  The canvas also makes for great texture so I guess the good and bad of it are about equal.  It would just depend on how you paint as to whether you would enjoy this support or not. 

I'll know to stretch it and tape it down if I ever use the canvas again and I don't think I'd use it for transparent watercolor in the tubes/pans.  I've used it before with watercolor "crayons" and that worked fairly well.  And I think gouache might work with it ok. 

I've had this pad of canvas for years though and it may be a long time before I use it again.  The idea of a canvas that will accept watercolor is a good one but, for me at least, the reality doesn't work as well as the idea.

Monday, June 14, 2010

SpectaFix Brand Fixative

 "Southern Magnolia"

I got an order in from Dick Blick a couple of weeks ago or so and have just now been able to play with some of the things I bought.

Most of the items were simply restocking some of my favorite supports but I added a new item this time - SpectraFix, the relatively new fixative made with a milk casein formula.  I was eager to try it since it's not an aerosol in a can and is not supposed to smell nor be that toxic to use.

One of the things I hate most about pastel is fixing it!  I have to go outside to spray because my studio does not have adequate ventilation for most aerosol fixatives.  That's a royal pain when the weather is bad and even if the weather cooperates, I like to spray between layers (until the last one) and that's a lot of running in and out!

So I was delighted to hear of this spray.  It's still an aerosol but comes in a pump spray bottle instead of the usual cans with chemical propellants.  I put it to the test with the magnolia painting above.

I'm very pleased to say that it does work very well as a fixative and there really isn't any smell! 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Friend in Texas

CiCi has opened many doors for friendship since we've had her but one of the nicest people I've met has been Suzanne in Tx.

I "met" Suzanne while searching for a harness for CiCi that wouldn't rub her "arm" pits and neck area.  I found Suzanne's Etsy shop and blog where she sells collars and accessories and patterns/tutorials for sewing your own!  I thought a custom made harness might be just the thing for CiCi and emailed Suzanne to ask about the fastenings on the harnesses.

She not only emailed me back promptly with answers, she also emailed me again later saying that she had read my blog about CiCi and wanted to recommend a product called Angels' Eyes for white dogs!  I thought that was kindness above and beyond the ordinary.

So, Suzanne, I just want to thank you publicly for your kindness.

And all of you with pets, go see Suzanne's Etsy shop and then mosey on over to her blog!

and Suzanne's blog Suzanne's Crazy For Collars

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another CiCi Photo!

Thought you might like to see a full length photo of CiCi.  She was almost shaved when we got her so she doesn't have the Maltese show dog hair but she's still beautiful, isn't she?

CiCi is such a little wimp about some things!  She's very quiet and very well-behaved but she'd almost rather take a beating than go outside.  We've not had any problems with accidents in the house but she will hold it forever to avoid going out.

I try to take her out frequently but instead of nosing around learning about her new environment, she will promptly sit or lie down and won't move unless it's to head for the porch!  If she sees me heading for the house, she will race to beat me there so she's in position to dart through the door the moment I open it!

Little rascal!  Isn't she a cutie?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More on CiCi

Thanks to all of you who have sent us well wishes both on this blog and by email and in person!

CiCi is doing well but she is still a bit on the timid side especially with my husband.  We have a feeling she may not have been treated very well in her past life.  Who knows where she was before she was found, plus, she spent a couple of weeks in a shelter while advertisement was made looking for her owners in case she was lost.  After that, she was placed in foster care with the rescue organization for about 2 weeks.  During that two weeks, she was spayed, had her teeth extracted and got all the immunizations that were needed.  That two weeks also had her on antibiotics which may have made her a little "out of it" and the foster home also had other dogs that may have been intimidating to her.

It's no wonder she's still a bit cautious around us.  Her foster parents were great though and had started socializing her and teaching some basic commands.  She really does very well, she's just very quiet.

Sue asked about what we feed her since she has no teeth.  She gets both a canned soft food and also a freeze-dried bagged food that reconstitutes soft but still with some texture which she seems to like.  It's so funny to go from feeding a 70 + pound dog to one that weighs less than 6 pounds!  We've gone from nearly a heaping food bowl to only a heaping tablespoon of food per feeding! 

I promised to tell you about my husband's reaction to her when we first met her.  It was so funny - we got to meet CiCi and spend a couple of hours with her but it was a week before we could actually have her with us.  During that time, my DH and I were trying to decide what we'd need to buy for her since we had nothing for a dog of her size.  A friend had given us a pet catalog and we also made a trip to PetSmart to look at items.

The first thing my husband wanted to buy for her was the little pink "Princess" bed shown in the photo in the previous post.  Then we looked at collars - he insisted on pink with jewels on it but changed his mind because the gems on it weren't real!  He also conspired with my friend, the pet shop owner, to get little outfits to dress her up in!  (I did object to that!)

What is so odd is that my DH might be considered a redneck in many ways and these actions are sort of out of character for him!  He's a sweet, loving man but not someone I would have expected to go ga-ga over a little "frou-frou" dog!  But, maybe I should have expected this - after all, he's the same man who planted wildflowers in Bonnie's pasture as a living tribute to her!

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm A Mom Again!

Well, in a way.  After all, very few grandmothers actually become mothers again.  But, we have a adopted a sweet little Maltese named CiCi and have just gotten her home today.  Bless her little heart, she was found wandering down a very busy highway and even after repeated advertising, she wasn't claimed.

The rescue agency where I try to help with pet portraits for fund raising was the rescue who took her in and it's estimated that she's about 4 to 5 years old.  It's assumed that she was a back-yard breeders bitch who was no longer producing and was turned out to fend for herself.  They don't think she was from a puppy mill  as she does have some social skills.  However, all of her teeth had to be pulled as they were all either loose or almost rotted away and she was a little timid at first.

Fortunately for us, she's not a rambunctious little ankle-biter but is very laid back and calm - exactly what we need in our household.

I know, I know - I said we weren't going to get any more animals but she needed us and, well, we needed her even more.

The decision to adopt another dog came about when my husband took a trip to Florida to see his mother and attend his niece's wedding.  These were plans that were made before I lost my beloved Bonnie.  I hadn't planned to go since I thought I'd be needed to stay here to take care of Bon.  Bonnie died just a few days before my DH left so I had no time to prepare to go with him.

During the time he was away, I got really lonesome - lonesome to the point where I "borrowed" a wonderful Golden Retriever from a friend for a night!  When my husband came home, he was full of stories about playing with his niece's dog and stated that we really needed to get another one.  I had to agree!

But, since our last dog weighed over 70 pounds and sometimes got so arthritic that we had to carry him outside to use the bathroom, we decided that a small dog was in order this time.  My friend who lent me her Golden put the word out on her rescue grapevine and it wasn't half an hour after sending her email that possibilities began to arrive in her email!

Little CiCi was the first picture to arrive and I fell in love.  My DH was wary but when we actually met her, he was more entranced with her than I was!  But, that's a story for another day as this is getting too long as it is!

I'll keep you updated on how CiCi is doing and the incredible changes in my husband because of her!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coming Up For Air

I know I haven't been very good about keeping up with my blog here.  Heck, it's been kinda difficult just keeping up with life lately! 

Spring is the time for renewal and growth and our garden has certainly been testament to that.

But, this spring has also brought the loss of my beloved horse, Bonnie.  She always seemed so healthy and it was easy to forget that she was a "senior" because she really didn't look it.  But, she went down on the Saturday before Mother's Day and while she rallied for a bit after a shot from the vet, we ended up having to euthanize her the next morning.  Man!  That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I thank God that my dear husband was home.  He's so supportive and such a rock for me.  We buried her in the small pasture behind the barn and this wonderful man of mine planted the whole area in wildflower seeds!  I know seeing the flowers in bloom will be very bittersweet.

I did the drawing above through my tears.  It's not very good, I know.  It's charcoal and I don't have any experience with charcoal.  I also haven't drawn many horses.  But this was cathartic for me and I don't really care that it's not perfect.  I guess a wobbly little foal running through a meadow of wildflowers sort of symbolizes my wobbly steps back into my own life.  Sort of stepping into a new "normal" that doesn't include trips to the barn twice a day, or heavy feed bags or hay bales. 

However, I still find myself slipping into my barn boots twice a day and panicking when I see the open pasture gate - the habits of well over 20 years are awfully hard to break.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunlit Cove - Pastel on UART Paper

This is a recent ATC that I did in pastel on UArt 800 sanded paper.  I like the sanded papers as a general rule because they hold so much pastel (or colored pencil) but I'm not overly fond of this particular grit.  I bought a package of this when I attended Jerry's Artarama trade show because the UArt rep said that it was very good with the pan pastels.  However, I wish I had chosen a paper with a bit more grit to it.  Live and learn!

Lots of things went on this past weekend including the fact that a couple of girlfriends and I went to Greensboro yesterday to an Arts and Craft show at the Coliseum.  We went early enough that it wasn't horribly crowded so were able to see the art very well.  There seemed to be quite a few craftspeople there along with photography booths but there were also a few painters.  I always enjoy looking at any art work but one booth in particular caught my eye - that of North Carolina artist Susan Crouch.  Her watercolors seemed so light-filled and, probably because her subject matter reflects my own preferences, I was totally enamored of her work.  While her art looks good on her website, it was gorgeous in person.  I could see that "glow" that watercolors are supposed to have and I long to paint like that!  She does offer workshops from time to time but I don't know if I could ever work up the courage to take one. 

I tend to fall all over myself when painting in public - sort of like someone trying to speak in front of an audience.  I knock over my water, I get flustered trying to mix paint and everything I already know flies right out of my head.  To top it off, it's as if my painting hand gets almost paralyzed and if there is any movement at all, it's choppy and jerky instead of the smooth, fluid strokes that are needed! 

OK, so now you all know my "dirty little secret".  Does anyone else feel this way?  If so, how do you get around it?  I've seen several workshops that I'd like to take but feel that I'd be too nervous to get much out of one.  I guess like every other fear, you just have to confront yours and do it afraid until you get past it!  Anyone want to go to a workshop with me?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Back to Ordinary Life

Well, the Easter holiday is over.  The kids and grandkids have been fed a holiday dinner and my DH has gone back to work!  Of course, with all the activity, especially my DH working in the yard and garden, there's a lot of cleaning to be done - AGAIN.  But, I guess that's life.  I just wanted to be able to go into my studio and do a little painting since I spent a good bit of last week cleaning and cooking, the weekend cooking and entertaining, and yesterday as support for my husband's efforts in the yard and garden!  It seems as if it's been a month since I've been able to paint or even do any sketching!

We went to a couple of garden centers on Saturday and I did get some really nice photos of flowers.  We're between blooms as the daffodils, tulips and such have finished blooming and the azaleas, little native iris and lilacs are just beginning.  We haven't gotten any bedding annuals yet as it's still a little early for the warm season flowers to be planted.  We'd seeded some flowers a few weeks ago and did transplant them into larger containers though.  We'll plant them out in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, we're getting lettuce, asparagus, arugula, spinach right now and hopefully some radishes, broccoli and snow peas soon.  The cool season stuff is doing great even though we've had 90+ degree weather lately!

Poor Bon is miserable as she's shedding and being as dark as she is, the heat really bothers her.  I brushed on her for about an hour this morning and got a couple of 5 gallon buckets of loose hair and it didn't look as if I'd even made a dent in what she needs to lose!  She's so itchy that she let me brush her way longer that she'll usually let me so I know it was a relief for her to get that stuff gone!

We also have bluebird pairs in all the bluebird houses (5 houses, I think) and some house finches kept trying to build a nest under the porch eaves.  We put bricks in the corners to discourage them as they built under the porch last year and it was a mess.  Not only that but the nest was right outside the kitchen door and the poor mama bird was constantly getting scared and flying off the nest.  We have a glass storm door and any movement in the kitchen would startle her off the nest.

So, life goes on out here in the country.  The wild turkeys are out in force and I'm sure the coyotes are mating also, if they haven't already given birth.

Oh, I have to tell you what happened the other night.  It was about 2 am when I heard a huge thud from the front part of the house (the bedroom is in the back).  I jumped up to see what it was and saw a huge Canada goose sitting in the side yard just out from the kitchen.  It would alternately sit or stand and wobble a bit but didn't move more than an inch or so and didn't try to fly away.  I watched it for about half an hour or so but finally went back to bed.  It was gone the next morning.  I wonder if it somehow flew into the side of the house and knocked itself silly for a while!  Fortunately, nothing got it that I could tell as there were no feathers scattered about the next morning.  My DH who has always been a light sleeper and says he can hear a gnat peeing on a cotton ball at 100 feet slept through the whole incident!  Maybe we should go get his ears checked!